Beyond Words - Language Blog

Maximus Burn: 5 Latin Insults for the Enjoyment of the Graduating Class

Unless you’re a translator, lawyer, scientist, or priest, you probably don’t speak or hear Latin very often. It’s not that the language has lost its significance for contemporary society — it would be very difficult, perhaps even foolish, to make such an argument. During the past decades, though, Latin has certainly fallen in popularity among students.

The data from the Modern Language Association (MLA)'s 2006 study, "Enrollments in Languages Other Than English in the United States Institutions of Higher Education" shows that from 2002-2006, the number of foreign language learners (in languages other than Greek and Latin) increased by 175,734 students (12.9%). According to the Digest of Education Statistics, college enrollment dropped by 48,000 students during that same period.

In 2006, the top five foreign languages learned were:

Spanish (822,985 students)
French (206, 426 students)
German (94,264 students)
American Sign Language (78,829 students)
Italian (78,368 students).

Fewer and fewer people are learning Latin. If you’re not employed in one of the professions listed above, or if you’re not personally studying Latin, your daily engagement with the language is most likely limited to word roots. Still, there’s one ceremony a year that remains largely reliant on the language: Graduation.

Many universities and colleges continue to utilize Latin in their graduation ceremonies/traditions. Colleges continue to print their diplomas in Latin. Students continue to graduate summa cum laude ("with the highest honor/praise"). Some unfortunate graduates even have to face the public embarrassment of singing Gaudeamus Igitur ("So Let Us Rejoice").

In this Latin spirit, we’ve compiled five comical phrases for the overworked, over-stressed, overly-exhausted Class of 2011. If you didn’t graduate summa cum laude, don’t sweat it. You can impress unknowing family and friends with these short sentences—testemants to your broad and liberal education:

ANTIQUIS TEMPORIBUS, NATI TIBI IN RUPIBUS VENTOSISSIMIS EXPONEBANTUR AD NECEM
In the good old days, children like you were left to perish on windswept crags

ULTINAM LOGICA FALSA TUAM PHILOSOPHIAM TOTAM SUFFODIANT!
May faulty logic undermine your entire philosophy!

ASCENDO TUUM
Up yours.

BREVIOR SALTARE CUM DEFORMIBUS VIRIS EST VITA
Life is too short to dance with ugly men.

MATER TUA TAM OBESA EST UT CUM ROMAE EST URBS HABET OCTO COLLES
Your momma’s so fat…when she’s in town, Rome has eight hills.

Congrats to all the new graduates out there! Have an excellent summer… and remember… Brevior saltare cum deformibus viris est vita!